“Legal Highs” – Dangerous Drug Abuse, Purchased Online
Illegal street drugs and prescription drug misuse can be tracked via emergency room visits. But what about “legal highs,” such as inhalants like glue and paint?
A study by Swedish researchers provides insight into the use of Methoxetamine, or MXE. The drug is classed as a “research chemical” and can be purchased online. The study was published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
MXE is made from ketamine, a drug popularly used at clubs for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects. Ketamine is also used for ketamine psychedelic psychotherapy, a tool used to treat depression and dependence disorders. MXE is similar in many ways to ketamine when used, but MXE tends to last longer and provide a more potent experience. The use of such substances can create a challenge for clinicians because they have little information about the contents of the drug, the interactions or side effects that are likely to occur with use.
The researchers used online public forums to examine postings about the use of MXE. This type of study, called a phenomenological review, is useful in collecting information about experiences and perceptions. The researchers were able to gather data from anonymous posters on the sites.
MXE users described dissociative properties similar to those associated with ketamine and altered states of consciousness. MXE was also reported as creating an elevated mood, an experience of euphoria, as well as long-lasting antidepressant effects, interests in new activities and personal growth.
The study’s design carries with it significant limitations. The use of anonymous reports to create a picture of the drug’s effects and risks is not the ideal way to measure the properties of a drug. However, the study provides important insight that could lead to more in-depth research. Next steps would include more systematic methods of research, including reliable measurements of effects, side effects and predictors for use.
Social Media’s Role In Mental Health Research And Drug Abuse Awareness
Social media is growing as a resource for mental health research. The use of public forums on drug use, combined with postings on other Internet sources, may not provide the same robust information as other types of study designs, but they may result in findings that provide a candid and unedited picture of users’ experiences.
The research may be helpful in raising awareness about the dangers of using chemicals to achieve a high similar to street drugs. Because they are legal and for sale on the Internet, users may misunderstand the level of danger attached to the use of these drugs. In addition to using the Internet to gather information about the use of MXE, social media may also be useful and play a role in raising awareness about the negative consequences of MXE use.